Marcus Aurelius - Meditations

The Mind Map

Intro:

His Life

Letters

Content:

Reflection on Nature & Humans

1 On Death

2 On Fame & Praise

3 On Time

4 On Soul

5 On Humans

6 On Them

6.1 How to deal with others

7 On You

7.1 How to deal with yourself

Marcus final.png

Life

Marcus Aurelius was born to a politically important aristocratic family in 121 CE and had an exceptional education in the rhetoric family in 121 ce and had an exceptional education in rhetoric, philosophy, and politics. Preferring the philosophical life, he was never the less adopted as successor to the emperor Antonius Pios. After a long apprenticeship in power, he became emperor in 161 C.E. and governed well under difficult circumstances until his death (while on military campaign) in 180 ce. He established a philosophy diary, To himself (more commonly known as the meditations), wasn’t published in his lifetime and become influential when it was ‘ rediscovered’ in the 10th-century ce. (Stoicism a very short introduction p. 4)

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121 - 80) was born (as Marcus Annius Versus) into a distinguished Roman family; after his father died in his childhood, he was adopted first by his grandfather and then by his uncle, Aurelius Antonios, who becomes emperor in 138. Marcus married Antoniu’s daughter, Faustina, in 145 and they had several children, including Commondus, his first and only surviving son, who succeeded Marcus as emperor. On the death of Antonius in 161, Marcus becomes emperor, along with Lucius Versus, who had also been adopted by Antonius. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.0)

Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 ce and arguably the most powerful man alive at the time was also a stoic. (Stoicism a very short introduction p. 2)

Marcus period as emperor was dominated by contrasting serious external threats to the boundaries and stability of the empire, especially from the Parthians in the east and the Germans in the north. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.0)

In 175 there was a short and unsuccessful rebellion against him by Avidius Cassius. He died from illness in 180. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.0)

Marcus had the normal Roman aristocratic in oratory and literature; his teacher included Fronto, and extensive correspondence between them survives. (...) The stoic teachings of Epictetus were a special influence. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.0)

Despite all these disturbances, Marcu's period as emperor was regarded as a good one at the time and afterwards, especially by contrast with his son, commodes (emperor 180-92), who ruled badly and was finally assassinated as a tyrant. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.viii)

Unlike Cicero or Seneca, Marcus did not have the time or opportunity to become an expert in philosophy and to communicate these experts to an educated reading public. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.xi)

Probably the work had no title and was not intended for publication but served as purely private notebook for Marcus reflections. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.viii)

Fronto was one of a number of distinguished people who contributed to the eduction of Marcus and his (adopted) brother Lucius Versus, when they were being prepared for their role as joint emperors. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.122)

To put the relationship in context, Marcus had a total of eighteen tutors, covering a range of subjects, of whom Fronto was the teacher of Latin oratory. The most influential of all these people was Junius Rusticus, who taught him stoic philosophy and who remained a close confidant of the emperor; his special role is clearly indicated in the meditation. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.124)

Letters

Marcus to Fronto: My sister was seized all of a sudden by such pain in her private parts that she was a terrible sight to behold. My mother grew so agitated at this also that she accidentally knocked her side against a corner of the wall, causing as much grief to us as to herself through this blow. As for me, when I went to lie down, I founded a scorpion in my bed; I managed to kill it, however, before lying down on it. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.126)

Marcus to Fronto: Then we had a look at that ancient town which, tiny though it is, contains many antiquities, including temples and religious cults beyond counting. There was not a corner that did not have a shrine or sanctuary or temple, and there are many books, too, written on linen, relating to matters of a cult. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.127)

Fronto to Marcus: to degree that absence causes us distress, we gain as much gratification from the longing that it provokes: for longing is born from love. Love is reinforced, then, by longing, which is by far the best thing in a friendship. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.130)

Fronto to Marcus: But truly of all your virtues this is the most admirable, the ability that you have to unite all your friends together in harmony. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.131)

Marcus to Fronto: We are well. Today I studied from three in the morning until eight, eating my meal bit by bit’ and from eight to nine I walked up and down very contentedly in front of my bedroom in my sandals. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.133)

Marcus as emperor to Fronto: But after your birthday, if you love me, take some quiet rest during the ensuring night, without giving thought to any business, however urgent. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.139)

Fornto to Marcus as emperor: There is nothing more perfect than the letters of Cicero. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.140)

Reflections on nature & Humans

The universe is a one living thing 

Constantly think of the universe as a single living being, comprised of a single substance and a single soul; and how all things issue into the single perception of this being, and how it accomplishes all things through a single impulse; and how all things work together to cause all that comes to be, and how intricate and densely woven is the fabric formed by their interweaving. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.31)

The earth in its entirety is merely a point in a space 

For the earth in its entirety is merely a point in space, and how very small is this corner of it in which we have our dwelling; and even here how few there will be, and of what nature, to sing your praises. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.24)

The cause is ever-flowing 

The universal cause is a rushing torrent; it carries all things in its stream. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.88)

Universal nature set out to create a universe; and now it is either the case that all that comes to be does so as a necessary consequence, or else even the important things, to which the ruling principles of the universe directs its own efforts, lie outside the rule of reason. Remember this, and you will face much trouble with a calmer mind. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.69)

All is ephemeral, both that which remembers and that which is remembered. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.30)

All that you now see will very swiftly pass away, and those who have watched it passing will swiftly pass away in their turn, and he who dies in extreme old age will be brought to a level with one who has died before him. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.89)

Firstly that all things are alike in nature from all eternity and recur in cycles, and if therefore makes no difference whether one sees the same spectacle for a hundred years or two hundred or for time everlasting; and secondly that the longest-lived and the earliest to die to suffer an equal loss; for it is solely of the present moment that each will be deprived if it is really the case that is all he has and a person cannot lose what he does not have. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.14)

From the substance of the whole, as if from wax, universal nature moulds first a little horse, and then, melting it down again, uses its material to make a little trace, and then a human being, and then something else again; and each of these has existed for only a very short time. But it is nothing terrible for a casket to be broken up, any more than it was for it to be put together. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.61)

Firstly, that things of themselves have no hold on the mind, but stand motionless outside it, and all disturbances arise solely from the opinions within us; and secondly, that all that you presently behold will change in no time whatever and cease to exist; and constantly reflect on how many such changes you yourself have already witnessed. “ The universe is change and life mere opinion. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.24)

‘Where are they now? Nowhere, or nowhere that we can say: For in this way you will constantly observe that all things human are mere smoke and nothingness, and all the more so if you call to mind that what has once changed will never exist again throughout unending time. Why, then, are you troubled? Why are you not content to pass your brief existence in a decent manner? What material and what field of activity you are running away from! What is all this except a training ground for a reason which has examined with accuracy and scientific care all that life embraces? (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.100)

In a word, all that belongs to the body is a stream inflow, all that belongs to the soul, mere dream and delusion, and our life is a war, a brief stay in a foreign land, and our fame thereafter, oblivion. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.15)

You have forgotten how close is the kinship which unites each human being to the human race as a whole, for it arises not from blood or seed but from our common share in reason. (...) And that the life of every one of us is contained to the present moment and this is all that we have. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.119)

The rational soul 

it articulates itself

it shapes itself according to its will

it reaps for itself the fruit it produces 

it achieves its proper end (in its boundaries)

The properties of the rational soul are these: it sees itself, it articulates itself, it shapes itself according to its will, it reaps for itself the fruit it produces (in contrast to the fruits of plants and their counterparts in the animal kingdom, which are harvested by others), and it achieves its proper end, wherever the boundaries of its life may be set; for in that respect it is unlike dance or a play or the like, in which the whole action is rendered imperfect if anything cuts it short. Rather, in every part of the whole, and wherever its end overtakes it realizes what it has proposed to itself fully and completely, so that it can say, “ All that is mine, I have’. And what is more, it traverses the whole universe and the void which encircles it and surveys its form, and reaches out into the endlessness of infinite time, and comprehends and reflects upon the periodical rebirth of the whole, and perceives that those who will come after us will see nothing new, just as those who came before us saw nothing more. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.104)

Death 

Death is a rest from recalcitrance of sense, and from the impulses that pull us around like a puppet, and from the vagaries of discourses thought, and from our service to the flesh. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.51)

One who is afraid of death fears either and absence of consciousness or its alteration. But if consciousness is no longer present, you will no longer be conscious of any evil; and if you come to have somewhat altered consciousness, you will merely be a living creature of another kind, and you will not have ceased to live. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.81)

Fame & praise

Let your thoughts constantly dwell on those who have been greatly aggrieved at something that came to pass, and those who have achieved the heights of fame, or affliction, or enmity, or any other kind of fortune; and then ask yourself, “ What has become of all that?” Smoke and ashes and merely a tale, or not even so much as a tale. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.119)

‘Leaves that the wind scatters to the ground, such are the generations of men!” And what are your children but leaves, and leaves too these people who acclaim you with such conviction and sing your praises, or, on the contrary, curse you, or reproach you in secret and gibe at your expense; and leaves likewise those who will transmit your fame when you are gone. (...) This fleeting existence is the common lot of all things, and yet you pursue and flee each thing as though it will last forever. A little while and you will close your eyes; and he who carried you to your grave will soon be lamented by another. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.102)

Time

Just as sand dunes are always drifting over one another and concealing what came before, so in life also, what comes earlier is very swiftly hidden by all that piles up afterwards. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.63)

Soul

There is one light of the sun, even though it is interrupted by walls, and mountains, and countless obstacles besides. There is one common substance, even though it is divided into countless individual bodies, each with its own particular qualities. There is one soul, even though it is divided amongst countless natures, each with its own limitations. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.120)

Humans 

What do humans consist of:

Body, soul, intellect:

 For the body, sense-impressions; 

For the soul, impulses: 

For the intellect, judgments

(Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.22)

You are composed of:

Body 

Breath 

Mind (The only that is your in the full sense)

There are three things of which you are composed; body, breath, and mind. Of these, the first two are your own in so far as it is your duty to take care of them; but only the third is your own in the full sense. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.114)

What part do you have in the whole? 

What the nature of the whole is, and what my own nature is; and how my nature is related to that of the whole, and what kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole; and that no one can prevent you, in all that you do and say, from always being in accord with that nature of which you are apart. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.12)

Human come into the world for the sake of one another

Either instruct them or put up with them

Human beings have come into the world for the sake of one another; either instruct them, then, or put up with them. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.81)

Just like the foot was made for walking you were made to contribute to the common good 

 It is just as if the eye sought compensation for seeing or the foot for walking. For as these were made to perform a particular function, and, by performing in according to their own constitution, gain in full what is due to them, so likewise, a human being is formed by nature to benefit others, and, when he has performed some benevolent action or accomplished anything else that contributes to the common good, he has done what he was constituted for, and has what is properly his. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.92)

On Them 

Don’t agree too quickly to people who are persuasive 

The best way to avenge yourself is not to become as they are. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.46)

The best way to avenge yourself is not to become as they are. 

The best way to avenge yourself is not to become as they are. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.46)

Acquire the habit of attending carefully to what is being said by another, and entering, so far as possible, into the mind of the speaker. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.56)

Keep in mind that a person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he set his heart on. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.58)

A person often acts unjustly by what he fails to do, and not only by what he does. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.84)

Give what it pleases you to give, and take what it pleases you to take’: and say so in no defiant spirit, but as one who only obeys her designs and thinks nothing but good of her. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.97)

For the nearer a man comes in his mind to impassibility, the nearer he comes to strength, and as grief is a mark of weakness, so is anger too, for those who yield to either has been wounded and have surrendered to the enemy. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.110)

Consider too how a human being makes contact with God, and though what part of himself, and how that part of him must be disposed of if he is to do so. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.13)

On You

How to deal with the world? 

So henceforth, in the face of every difficulty that leads you to feel distressed, remember to apply this principle: this is no misfortune, but to bear it with a noble spirit is good fortune. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.33)

And show a cheerful face to the world, and have no need for help from outside or the peace that others confer. In brief, you must stand upright, not be held upright. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.18)

The art of living is more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s in this regard, that it must stand ready and firm to meet whatever happens to it, even when unforeseen. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.67)

How, then, are you to have an ever-flowing spring in you, and not a pool of standing water? If you hold firm to independence at every hour, along with kindness, simplicity, and reverence. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.80)

You should know what is genuinely good and bad to tolerate others 

Marcus thinks that just knowing what is genuinely good and bad will give him the perspective he needs to tolerate his fellow human beings. (Stoicism a very short introduction p.6)

Virtues you should have 

Looking only to what ought to be done, and not to the reputation that he would gain from having done it. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.7)

Meditation sketch 

Marcus most characteristic methods of practical ethics: that is, making a ‘sketch’ or ‘outline’ of things, and ‘stopping them naked’ to their essential reality or core (...) Marcus has in mind is getting to the ethical core of the situation. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.xvii)

First - Consider how you stand in relation to them

Second - Consider what kind of being they are and what compulsion they are subjected to because of their opinion. 

Third - If they act rightly (no need to be angry) If they act wrongly they are doing so involuntary (ignorance )

Four - Consider that you for your part commit many wrongs 

Five - You cannot even be certain that what they are doing is wrong 

Six - When you are annoyed beyond measure, remember that human life lasts but a moment.

Seven - It is not peoples actions that trouble us but the opinions that we form about those actions 

Eight - Anger and distress hurt us more than what is causing it.

Nine - True Kindness is invincible ¹

(Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.108)

Don’t fall prey of pleasure 

Such as praise from the crowd, position, or wealth, or sensual pleasure. All of these, even if they seem to suit our nature in the short term, suddenly seize control of us and carry us away. For your part, I say, you must in all simplicity and freedom choose what is higher and hold to that. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.19)

Accept your destiny and gods wanting 

to love and welcome all that happens to him and is spun for him as his fate, and not to defile the guardian-spirit seated within his breast, nor to trouble it with a host of fancies, but to preserve it cheerful serenity, following God in an orderly fashion, never uttering a word that is contrary to the truth nor performing an action that is contrary to justice. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.22)

Value is to be truthful and just 

In this world there is only one thing of real value, to pass our days in truth and justice, and yet be gracious to those who are false and unjust. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.56)

Thus the leading principle in the constitution of man

Be concerned about the goods of others 

Be resistant to the passion of the body 

Be neither hastily in judgments nor readily deceived ⁵  

(Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.66)

Your action and moral virtue 

That how you act is of moral significance, and that the material on which you act is neither good nor bad in itself. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.66)

Internal conversation 

Marcus sometimes emphasizes the fact that his comments form a kind of inner dialogue, addressing his “soul, or his ‘ imagination’, or constructing a kind of internal conversation. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.Xi)

On how to deal with problems 

Recover your sense, call yourself back, and now that you have roused yourself from your sleep and realized that these were mere dreams that were troubling you, look at these things as you looked at those. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.52)

On how to deal with pain 

‘pain is neither undurable nor everlasting, if you keep its limits in mind and do not add to it through your own imagination’. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.67)

Evil is within us 

For every judgment, impulse, desire, or aversion arises from within us, and nothing evil can enter on from outside. (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.74)

Let reason itself cause no pain to itself 

‘ What are you yourself?’ Reason. ‘ But I am not the reason!’ So be it. In that case, let reason itself cause no pain to itself, and if some other part of you is in a bad way, let it form its own opinion on the matter! (Marcus Aurelius - Meditation p.77)